Monday, May 28, 2012

Port Security Grant Legislation Introduced

Recently Rep. Richardson (D,CA) introduced two pieces of legislation that would modify the Port Security Grant funding process, expanding the potential uses of those funds. The bills were HR 5802, the Port Security Equipment Improvement Act of 2012, and HR 5803, the Port Security Boots on the Ground Act. Neither bill expands the amount of money made available for the Port Security Grant program; they just expand where the awarded grants can be spent.

Equipment Improvement

HR 5802 would amend 46 USC § 70107(b)(2) by adding the words “and replacement”. This would make the first sentence of the paragraph read:

“The cost of acquisition, operation, maintenance, and replacement [changed wording] of security equipment or facilities to be used for security monitoring and recording, security gates and fencing, marine barriers for designated security zones, security- related lighting systems, remote surveillance, concealed video systems, security vessels, and other security-related infrastructure or equipment that contributes to the overall security of passengers, cargo, or crewmembers.”

As the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 approaches being ten years old, some of the security equipment emplaced under the requirements of the act is reaching the end of its useful life. If this section of the authorization for the Port Security Grant program is not modified, local authorities will be forced to spend their own money replacing this aging equipment.

Boots on the Ground

HR 5803 would amend § 70107(b)(1), changing it to read:

“Salary, benefits, overtime compensation, retirement contributions, and other costs of additional Coast Guard mandated security personnel, including overtime and backfill costs incurred in support of other expenditures authorized under this subsection, except that not more than 50 percent of amounts received by a grantee under this section for a fiscal year may be used under this paragraph [added language].”

This would greatly expand the potential use of Port Security Grants to fund payroll expenditures. To prevent all of the grant funding from going to personnel costs, the bill does limit to total personnel expenditures to just 50% of any grant money received. This may hurt grantees that used their awards for a larger share of their personnel costs.

Moving Forward

I would be surprised if either bill makes it out of the Homeland Security Committee as stand alone legislation. I would suspect, however, that either or both of these bills could find their way into an authorization bill (DHS or Coast Guard) or the DHS appropriations bill as a floor amendment.

1 comment:

Laurie Thomas said...

Patrick, thanks for valuable insight on these two pieces of legislation. I have a slightly different slant on HR 5802. I see this as an attempt to grant industry some relief on TWIC readers. PAC 01-11 states that industry stakeholders who have purchased TWIC readers that subsequently do not meet regulatory requirements will not be reimbursed for the cost of replacement. What! Many companies are electing not to go out on a limb and get readers with this hanging over their head. Many of the benefits of the card are then not utilized and it is just an expensive flash-pass. With HR 5802, replacement costs for readers that don't meet new standards might be funded. As far as these ideas been enfolded into an authorization act, DHS can simply ignore them there as it has ignored provisions of the SAFEPort Act.

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